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JEMMY BUTTON by Benjamin Subercaseau Kirkus Star



Pub Date: March 30th, 1954
Publisher: Macmillan

A fictionalization of material from two of the Beagle's voyages centers its attention on Commander Robert Fitz-Roy's attempts to civilize Fuegian natives. From diaries and logs of the expeditions of 1830 and 1833, this tells of the enthusiasm and madness, the dedication and despair that motivated him, the capture of the four -- Fuegia Basket, York Minister, Boat Memory and James (Jemmy) Button -- and their introduction to English speech and ways, as they live aboard ship, make their way to Monte-video and arrive in England. There Boat dies, and others live in the country with the devoted Bennett and a vicar's family; Jemmy runs away, they meet the King and Queen, and York and Fuegia's natural passion drive Fitz-Roy again to play God. Darwin is a passenger on their return trip and a witness to the ""return of the native"", and Jemmy accomplishes a final viciousness in his treatment of the missionary, Matthews, leaving Fitz-Roy with nothing proved, nothing gained. The savages of the Tierra del Fuego islands, the rigors of the Beagle's missions, the conflict of opinion over the Fuegians and their own ability to adapt but not absorb, the landscape of the period combine into a story with unusual qualities and ample detail. Interesting.